Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spice up dinner with a few off-the-wall veggies!

Pssst…I dare say? This Parsnip Cake with Ginger Cream Icing is even more delicious than carrot cake!
A few lonely, overlooked vegetables are vying for your attention at the vegetable stand. You know the wallflowers. Most are green, some are colourful, they grow in or close to the ground, and are usually quite frost hardy. Some look warty and, when boiled most smell earthy and rooty. Others grow hairy sprouts if left unattended on the counter for too long. Due to poor accessorizing tastes on the part of cooks, many suffer from low self-esteem issues. You’ve probably met a few of these veggies, glanced at them sorrowfully and promised to bring one home for a meal, next time. You remember them well from your childhood—Brussels sprouts, parsnips, rutabagas, cauliflower, etc. The ones you were told to eat but discreetly fed to Fido instead. (Hey, no one wonder his coat was so fluffy and he lived so long!) But the bland “boil, salt n’ serve” presentation just didn’t turn you on. I can’t imagine why?

Time for a veggie fashion accessory consult, no charge! Fasten your seatbelt for the spin, these once boring veggies are now vogue, sporting fall dress up twists that could be winning you rave dinner reviews. Cauliflower—wallflower no more—is prancing about in nothing but cheddar and thyme crumbs. The lowly parsnip is outdoing its poor cousin (the carrot) in cakes and spicing up world-renowned Irish wines and beers. Le petit choux, otherwise known as the Brussels sprout, is basking in lemon sauces and toasted almonds. Why not host a “haute and heavy” veggie fashion event like none other before!

Try these recipes at your next gathering:

Delicious Parsnip Cake with Ginger Cream Icing
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (packed) shredded peeled parsnips (about 3 large)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

1 pkg (250 g) light cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
½ tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan or two 8” or 9” cake pans to make a layered cake. Combine flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in large bowl; whisk to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, milk, and 1 tsp vanilla in medium bowl to combine. Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients; stir until just combined, don’t over mix. Stir in parsnips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan(s). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cake(s) completely in pan on rack. Remove from pans.
For icing:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in fresh ginger and 1/8 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until icing is smooth. Spread over cake. If making a layered cake place one-third of icing on one cake and place the other cake on top and ice the entire cake. Tip: Place the first cake upside down on the cake plate, ice, then place the other cake right side up, on top. The two bottoms of the cakes will be stuck together. The cake will look more symmetrical and the top layer is less likely to slide or shift.
Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Cauliflower with sharp cheddar and thyme crumbs
1 large 3 lb cauliflower* head, cut into 2-inch florets
(*broccoli or Brussels sprouts may be substituted)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped scallion greens
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (Use croutons crushed into breadcrumbs in food processor if necessary)
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook or steam cauliflower until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain cauliflower well in a colander and place in a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour. Cook over low heat, whisking for 3 minutes. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese, mustard, scallion greens, thyme, salt, and pepper, whisking until cheese is melted. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower and stir gently to combine.
Breadcrumbs: Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan, remove from heat. Pour over crumbs, add 1/2 tsp thyme and toss to coat. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over cauliflower. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.

Lemon-glazed Brussels Sprouts with Slivered Almonds
About 3 cups medium Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed

1/4 cup butter

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp grated lemon peel

1/4 c slivered almonds
Steam or boil Brussels sprouts in a large pot until tender crisp (about 9 min). Drain in colander. Dispose of water. Using the same pot, over medium heat melt butter and whisk in lemon juice. Whisk to form a sauce. Stir in Brussels sprouts and coat with sauce. Cook, continuously stirring over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until sprouts brown slightly on the edges and glazed with sauce. Stir in slivered almonds. Place in serving bowl, sprinkle with lemon peel and serve
Makes 6 servings.

Bon Appétit!

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